I’m yet to meet anyone who enjoys handling complaints, but sometimes, unfortunately, they do occur (although hopefully very infrequently). The way you handle any complaint will make all the difference to the outcome. If handled correctly, often complaints can be turned around and the complainants can even then become advocates and end up singing your praises (rather than threatening law suits) and this should be the aim.
So how do you handle customer complaints?
Time is of the essence and the speed at which you act and resolve issues will often make all the difference. Depending on the nature of the complaint, you may be able to sort it out immediately and offer a satisfactory solution at the time of complaint. For more complex issues, I would suggest asking the client to put the complaint in writing so that you know exactly what needs to be addressed. Acknowledge immediately upon receipt and advise the course of action to be taken within the following forty-eight hours of receipt. You may need to look into the issue with a supplier or wholesaler, or sometimes resolutions can take time, but if you communicate clearly and in a timely manner with the complainant, things can often be resolved quickly and to everyone’s satisfaction with minimal fuss.
I’ve often heard of complaints that sit in inboxes or filing trays for weeks, without any form of communication or acknowledgement, and people wonder why then the issue escalates and rapidly becomes out of control. Often people just want to be heard, acknowledged, and sympathised with. Again, it’s of dire importance to act quickly and liaise with a client to resolve a problem.
Our offices have always had a complaint handling procedure to follow and many stores have something similar in place. Staff often find it easier if there is a procedure to follow and having one in place will enable them to understand your expectations, particularly in relation to turnaround time, and enable them to hopefully resolve efficiently.
I also think it’s important to involve the manager or supervisor in your business (which of course may be you!) early on in the equation. Just the act of involving a person with ‘authority’ can calm a situation quite quickly and bring things under control rapidly.
Take the time to put together a series of guidelines or a complaint handling protocol document for your staff so that this can be a point of reference and form part of your operations manual. Also, ensure that staff are fully trained as to how to handle and react, and what to do, should a complaint arise.